Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary Master of Arts, Church History, Thesis
Abstract: This thesis examines the mission activity of David Zeisberger from the massacre of 96 Christian Indians at Gnadenhutten in 1782 to Zeisberger's death in 1808. The research is restricted to settlements in the "Old Northwest," specifically New Gnadenhutten (outside Detroit), New Salem, Goshen, and other locations in the Upper Ohio Valley. One of the most significant missionaries to the Native Americans, Zeisberger was influential in the development of what historian Jane T. Merritt has called "a distinctive native Christian religion." The present study examines Zeisberger's role in the religious and social life of the Moravian Indian congregations after the Gnadenhutten massacre, including his translation of scriptural and liturgical works into the Delaware language. While other studies have looked at Zeisberger's mission before 1782, have focused on other regions, or have studied the missions primarily from the standpoint of Indian culture, the present study places Zeisberger' s mission in the broader context of Moravian and Indian worlds as they intersected in the Old Northwest at the tum of the eighteenth century. An examination of the detailed mission diaries Zeis berger and his co-missionaries kept reveals that many Indians continued to interact with the Moravian theology of the suffering Saviour in meaningful ways even after the Gnadenhutten massacre. After 1 782, Zeisberger took the lead in reviving and maintaining the unique Moravian religious culture that had characterized the earlier mission towns. Indians continued to find this culture centered on a theology of the suffering Saviour a compelling reason to join the Gemeine ( community), often in the context of famine, alcoholism, and displacement among native communities. Native resistance movements, a response to Euro-American expansion after the Revolutionary War, and Moravian cooperation with the Indian civilizing program of the United States contributed to the decline of the Moravian mission towns toward the end of Zeisberger's life. These factors exerted greater influence than the Gnadenhutten massacre on the decline of the missions, as Zeisberger found it impossible to maintain the "permeable boundaries" inherent in the mission towns.